Class of 2022 celebrates students’ time at Lees-McRae with weekend of festivities

The Lees-McRae class of 2022 came together for one last weekend of fun and celebration as their time at the college they have come to love came to a close. The events on Friday and Saturday celebrated all the hard work and dedication it has taken each graduate to get to where they are today.

“The class of 2022 is a special class for me because we started at Lees-McRae as freshmen together,” President Lee King said at the senior brunch which kicked off the weekend. “The first year that I was president at Lees-McRae was the first year that you were students here, so you all will have a special place in my heart as you go off on your journey.”

The Day Before Graduation

Graduates gathered over biscuits, bacon, eggs, and French toast in The Summit on the morning of Friday, May 6, setting the busy weekend off to a delicious start. That morning, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement and Alumni Relations Katie Talbert encouraged the graduates to make the most of their last couple of days as Lees-McRae students.

“Savor this moment, because after tomorrow you’re no longer a student, you’re an alum,” Talbert said. “For now, you have an amazing next 24 hours to celebrate each other. Remember the highs, the lows, the hard work you put into this, and all the professors that made a difference in your life. Enjoy every second.”

Talbert’s words set the scene for reflection and appreciation at two special ceremonies later that afternoon: the Alpha Chi Honor Society induction and the Baccalaureate hooding ceremony.

Alpha Chi is a national honor society that boasts more than 220,000 members across the country. High scholarship is the primary requirement for inductees, and this year seven Lees-McRae students were added to the society. Gracie Brindle, Victoria Helms, Amalia Hernandez Bautista, Brooke Roberson, Lylah Swan, Julia Lagrone, and Brian Sims Jr. were each inducted into Alpha Chi after reciting the pledge and signing the society’s constitution.

The Alpha Chi pledge is as follows: “I pledge myself to uphold the purposes of Alpha Chi, striving to make its ideals my ideals in scholarship and service.”

The Baccalaureate hooding was the last ceremony before the main event on Saturday, and one that held a lot of symbolism for the graduates. In the first Baccalaureate hooding ceremony since 2019, graduates donned each other with their Baccalaureate hoods in acknowledgement of their peers’ hard work.

“Many of you have asked what exactly a Baccalaureate service is. For me, it’s a time of celebration and to offer you, the graduates, our most sincere gratitude, and blessings as you move forward into this next chapter,” Registrar Lynn Hinshaw said. “It has been a privilege to work with you through good times, and maybe some difficult ones too, but nothing makes me smile bigger and brighter than to see you walk across the stage at commencement and take that next step in achieving your dreams.”

Following remarks from Hinshaw and Instructor of Speech and Oral Communications Kevin Daily, graduates placed their hoods on each other under the instruction of Michael Hannah, associate professor and program coordinator of Theater Arts. Soon-to-be graduates, along with their proud family, friends, and professors enjoyed a reception in King-Shivell following the ceremony.

The Day of Graduation

On the morning of Saturday, May 7, graduates began gathering in Williams Gymnasium, eagerly awaiting the start of the event that would serve as a gateway into their next phase of life. The excitement was palpable as students and professors shared coffee and doughnuts while awaiting their cue.

Meanwhile faculty, staff, and loved ones of all ages gathered in the gymnasium to share in their graduate’s special moment. Taking notes from the previous night’s ceremony, graduates adjusted each other’s baccalaureate hoods and mortar boards just so.

Many students decorated their caps to display their personalities, programs of study, and journey at Lees-McRae. Musical Theater major Lillian North’s decorated cap summed up the feelings of the day: “May the rest of our lives be the best of our lives.”

When the moment finally arrived, bagpiper Gordon Warburton played a traditional processional as he led the graduates through a hallway of their cheering professors and into the gymnasium full of their loved ones where King addressed the crowd.

“It has been a pleasure to watch you grow, to see you testing your wings with adulthood, and it’s even more exciting to see you here today as you anticipate the beginning of your next phase of life,” King said. “Know that Lees-McRae will always be part of you. The college has helped shape you into the person you are becoming. We are proud of you.”

During the ceremony, the president awarded the H. C. Evans Jr. Fidelity Awards. These honors trace back nearly 90 years and are named after the college’s ninth president. Awarded to one graduate from the Lees-McRae main campus and one graduate from the college’s distance learning programs, the H. C. Evans Jr. Fidelity Awards recognize academic excellence, campus citizenship, friendliness, leadership, and service to the college and community.

The recipients of these awards are chosen by their peers and endorsed by the college’s faculty and administration. This year’s distance learning recipient was Elementary Education major Pamela Hege, who studied through the college’s partnership with Surry Community College, and the main campus recipient was Nursing major Sarah Quaye.

This year’s commencement addresses were delivered by two outstanding students, Elementary Education major Joanna Barker and Student Body President and Biology major London England. They delivered inspiring and meaningful words to their fellow graduates.

Barker left her peers with a thoughtful metaphor to reflect on as they begin the next phase of their journey. Referencing an article written by Jennifer Gonzalez titled “Find your Marigold,” she encouraged her fellow graduates to be and seek out marigolds in their lives.

Barker explained that marigolds are flowers that protect plants from pests and harmful weeds, while walnut trees give off a toxic substance that can hinder the growth and eventually kill crops and plants. Oftentimes, people too fall into these categories. She encouraged her peers to seek the marigolds in their life, identifying those around them who would protect and encourage them to grow, while avoiding the walnut trees who would do the opposite.

“I want to take this a step further. I challenge you, as I have challenged myself, to not only surround yourself with marigolds, but to be a marigold to others,” Barker said. “We can’t try to find marigolds if we have intentions to try to poison or harm the people around us in the process. Don’t be a walnut tree, watch those marigolds and be like them.”

After being officially inducted into the Alumni Association by President of the Alumni Board Talia Freeman ’07, the new graduates made one final acknowledgement of the time they spent at Lees-McRae by singing founder Rev. Edgar Tufts’ own words in the College Hymn “Assurance.” The hymn is adapted from a poem Tufts wrote to describe the calling he felt to serve the people of Banner Elk, and reads:

“When ‘twas thy Holy Spirit came

Into my heart with quick’ning power

And set aglow a sacred flame

I cannot tell the day or hour,


Nor why it is thy Spirit chose

To make a home within my breast

And drive away my deadly foes

Of sin and lust, and give me rest.


But this I know: the work begun

By Thee will never cease nor wane

As long as God’s immortal Son

As King of Kings, shall live and reign.


No fear of loss, the work is thine,

And thine alone forevermore!

No fear of death, thy light shall shine

To guide my way to heaven’s shore!”


By Maya JarrellMay 09, 2022
AlumniCampus LifeAcademics